History Part IV

Part IV Exile: Europe and the United States

The Order flourished in Russia until the Revolution of 1917. After the destructive rise of Bolshevism, all imperial institutions, including the Order of Saint John were abolished. The Order’s buildings, possessions and other properties were seized and used for other purposes. In 1928, the surviving exiled Hereditary Family Commanders met in Paris where they reestablished the Orthodox Russian Grand Priory. The events of this revival and the subsequent futile attempts at recognition by the western papal Order in Rome have been chronicled by the Russian historian Baron Taube. 1932 the Hereditary Family Commanders officially because they were not of the Roman faith. During these negotiations the Russian Order sent the Cross of Grand Master Jean de la Valette to Rome as a peace offering. At that point in time, the Russian Order reestablished in Paris attempted to preserve what was remembered from Imperial times. The Second World War and the aging of the group allowed for a natural decline. However, the exiled Romanov Grand Dukes Cyril, Alexander and Andrei continued to offer the group their protection.

In the 1970s the Russian Grand Priory was relocated, in another revival, to the United States. At a meeting of the Hereditary Family Commanders, presided over by Prince Serge S. Belosselsy-Belozersky [whose father had taken part in the 1928 meetings], Count Nicholas A. Bobrinskoy, the youngest member of the group and encouraged by his elder half-brother, whom represented the Order was elected Prior. The Order was reborn as a not for profit charitable institution. 

Count Bobrinskoy, a great-great-great grandson of Empress Catherine the Great, vigorously re-established the Order. He obtained the blessings of the Russian Orthodox Churches, both in exile and in America and protection of the Romanoffs, Prince Andre and then Prince Vassily. The Order’s membership was opened as never before to non-Russian and non-Orthodox members, and pursued an active policy of charitable endeavors. At the same time, ever aware of the many pseudo-Russian Orders which had begun to appear in the 1960s and 1970s, Count Nicholas divorced himself from all such groups and individuals once they were known to him. The regalia and costumes of the Order were reinstituted after careful and often arcane study into an institution which had all but disappeared from history in 1917 to be reborn in Paris but without development was once again an active and growing group in the United States.

From the United States, the émigré Russian nobles, gentlemen and ladies invited persons of non Russian lineage to join as full knights and dames. The Order grew by leaps and bounds under the leadership of Count Nicholas and his wife Tatiana, both of whom labored ceaselessly to expand and bring the Order back to its pre-revolutionary character. Without the financial backing of an Imperial presence or institution, Count and Countess Bobrinskoy raised great sums for charitable enterprises by 20th century fundraising techniques, private donations and charity events. They returned to the primary function of the medieval Order as a hospitaller organization to help those in physical need. Victims of hurricanes, earthquakes and famine were assisted. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Order return to Russia to help with the spiritual and physical devastation of the Russian people by seventy-five years of godless totalitarian rule. Russian orphans, hospitals and churches were helped. 

In 2008 the Order lost its second founder and leader, Count Nicholas; HH Prince Michael Romanoff, -already the Order’s Imperial Protector was elected and assumed the role of Grand Prior. The Order continued to flourish under his direction and assumed and even more international presence. He passed in 2011. The Order’s membership elected its present Grand Prior Count Alexander Woronzoff- Dashkoff Under his leadership; it continues to explore new avenues to fulfill it mission. In 2014, the Order welcomed HH Prince Rostislav of Russia as their new Imperial Protector.

The Order carries forth in the spirit of its ancient Crusader mottoes: Pro Fide and Pro Utilitate Hominum.